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Despite career day from Kendra Dahlke, Arizona takes first loss of the season

The Arizona star had 30 kills, but the New Mexico State Aggies won their first ever match against the Wildcats

<span data-author="5158751">arizona-wildcats-volleyball-kendra-dahlke-utah-recap </span> Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

Kendra Dahlke has a good start on an All-American resume in 2018, and Saturday was no exception. The senior outside hitter had a career high 30 kills, but the Wildcats were unable to turn that into their first 9-0 start since 2009, falling to New Mexico State in five sets (16-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-27, 12-15)

New Mexico State came out ready to prove something, and held on to take their first win against Arizona since women’s volleyball became a Division I sport in 1981. The Aggies move to 1-17 all time against the Wildcats with their five-set victory in Las Cruces.

Arizona has been pushed by several of their early opponents, but has eventually been able to over-power the likes of Utah State, Sacramento State, and UTEP. NMSU did what none of the earlier challengers were able to: hold on to leads and overcome Arizona runs.

Some of the things that eventually doomed the Wildcats today have been visible in previous matches. Letting opponents get out to early leads, like the one the Aggies built in the first set, has cropped up in several contests. On Saturday, this was evident from the outset when NMSU cruised to take the opening set 25-16 with only one lead change and three ties early in the set.

Even the straight-set victories in last week’s Cactus Classic often featured Arizona coming back or taking control in the last half of sets. Saturday, it was New Mexico State doing the things Arizona had used to its advantage in its 8-0 start. In the fourth set, with a chance to end the match, the Wildcats were unable to hold off the Aggies.

At 23-18 in the fourth set, Arizona was just two points from ending the match for head coach Dave Rubio’s 499th Division I win. In previous matches, this has been a foregone conclusion for the Wildcats. Saturday, the Aggies fought back.

NMSU star Tatyana Battle had three kills down the stretch in the fourth set, while Arizona’s Dahlke had three attack errors. Paige Whipple and Candice Denny threw in two more attack errors for the Wildcats, and the Aggies extended the match with a 27-25 victory.

The Wildcats were hampered by errors all match. While they won the kills battle—getting 72 to NMSU’s 58—they struggled with consistency on the attack and the serve. Arizona had 10 more attack errors than their opponent, and they gave the Aggies seven free points by losing the service error game 10-3.

The 8-1 Wildcats will try to get back on the winning track when they host the Wildcat Classic next week. They will also get a chance to avenge the loss, with NMSU (7-2) visiting McKale for that tournament.